Novi Police Detective Jon Zabick serves as the school resource officer at Novi High School.

Novi Police Detective Jon Zabick serves as the school resource officer at Novi High School.

Photo provided by Novi Community School District


Novi’s school resource officer program works to keep classrooms safe

By: Brian Wells | Novi Note | Published December 7, 2021

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NOVI — Jon Zabick usually arrives at Novi High School about 45 minutes before the school day starts. He will usually take a stroll through the building, looking for anything out of the ordinary and making sure the lights are on. Then, as students are filing into the building and moving through the halls, he’ll move to the more congested parts of the school to see the students.

But Zabick isn’t a teacher. Zabick, a detective with the Novi Police Department, is one of two school resource officers in the Novi Community School District.

“There’s a sense of peace and comfort that is delivered by the presence of the SRO in the building,” Zabick said.

While Zabick works primarily at Novi High School, a second officer works in the elementary and middle schools.

 

What is a school resource officer?

A school resource officer is a police officer who works within a school to help ensure the safety of the students and staff.

“It’s primarily a liaison role between law enforcement, parents, students (and) administrators at the school level,” Zabick said. “It’s a very proactive position in the sense that we try to look for various ways to sort of troubleshoot situations without necessarily interjecting kids directly into the criminal justice system.”

The Novi Police Department’s school resource officers help to provide a sense of security and safety, while also building trust with the students who are in the school, said Novi Police Chief David Molloy.

“There was a period of time not too long ago that there had been no school shootings in schools that had school resource officers on the property,” Molloy said. “But that kind of changed with some of the shootings that have happened in the last probably five or six years. I think it’s important to have that presence.”

The school resource officers help facilitate lockdown and safety drills by serving as advocates and teachers for the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate — or ALICE — response model. They also provide input on safety matters when the school district plans to expand buildings.

After the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 and Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the Novi Police Department decided to take their school resource officer program a bit further.

In addition to having two officers based in the schools, a group of district officers frequent the schools, as well. These district officers are uniformed police officers who are responsible for knowing who the principals are, as well as the facilities staff and the layout of the school.

“If something bad happens in that building, it’s important that that’s not the officer’s first time actually in the building as a district officer,” Molloy said. “And they have built great relationships with our uniformed teams, as well as with the administrative teams and all the schools we have — public, private, parochial — and it’s been very, very beneficial.”

 

‘The most enriching and fulfilling experience of my life’

On a typical day, Zabick spends time in the hallways, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious at Novi High School. He takes opportunities to build relationships with students, learning about their school year and their lives.

Zabick also works with school officials in safety security management and to establish policies and trainings. He can also sometimes be found working with social workers or school counselors to bring attention to students who may be struggling.

“We just try to keep each other in the loop about any kind of student that’s struggling with mental illness, or severe depression or anxiety or anything like that and how those things may affect the possibility of them self-harming or harming others,” Zabick said. 

Zabick has been working in the field for over 28 years, of which he’s spent the last nine working as a school resource officer. Until about four years ago, he was the only school resource officer for the entire district.

“I find it incredibly rewarding,” he said. “It’s been the most enriching and fulfilling experience of my life in terms of professional application. I take great pride in that.”

But at the same time, Zabick said he carries with him a tremendous personal burden. He never wants to see things like what happened at Oxford High School or Stoneman Douglas High School happen, and he takes a personal responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t happen in Novi.

“I give what I can personally to seeing that never happen here,” he said. “What happened (Nov. 30), so close to home, has taken an emotional toll on me. … I’m sure any SRO in this area would tell you that strikes close to home because there’s heart involved in this.

“I come to school every day, while my kid is in another school district going to another high school today. I think about all of those parents that are just like me, sending their kids into these buildings, and I think how can I be the best that I can be for them, just like I would hope the SRO in my kid’s school district is operating with as much heart and passion for the position as I am.”

Contact Brian Wells at (586) 498-1081, (248) 291-7637 or bwells@candgnews.com.

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